The word real is so horrifically over-used in Hollywood profiles that it's starting to become parody. She's so real that she says hello to people at work even when she's tired! She's so real that she adopted a racehorse! She's so real that she has all of her teeth! Stars, they're just like us! But it's pretty darn hard to describe Gabrielle Union without slipping the dreaded real in there. Because despite her movie-star status, her multiple endorsement deals, her basketball-star husband — well, she's real. And if you didn't know, then her new book, We're Going to Need More Wine, communicates it pretty clearly.
I met Gab — yup, I'm allowed to call her that! — at a fashion-show dinner (not the realest event, but bear with me). I was incredibly nervous in my red leather coat and tottering heels. I sat down next to Gab, in her head-to-toe couture look, seeming like she should have seventeen security guards. Instead, she grabbed the bread and said, "Fuck, I'm hungry." The relief I felt was full body, and we spent the rest of the evening talking about unprintable things.
In the three years since, we've talked about plenty of unprintable things as we've compared notes on the challenges of living in our female bodies (and the greater challenge of letting Hollywood have a say in what those bodies do and represent). And while Gab has often expressed her anxiety about public perception, she's written a book of essays as raw and honest as anyone has ever produced.
In this fantastic book, she discusses everything from sexual assault to the complexity of money in relationships to infertility (plus all the extra gossip you crave). Gab has not only excused the demons of her two-decade career, but she's turned the exercise into primal scream therapy for her fans. As witty, warm, and assured on the page as she is in person, this book lives somewhere between Nora Ephron and Eve Babitz, with a touch of Audre Lorde's radical awareness. It was an honor to ask her about the divide between public and private, the challenge of being your own best representative, and knowing your damned worth.
Lena Dunham: You and I have talked a lot about the anxiety of being a public person, and you talk about it in the book. How did you navigate the Gabrielle who is so concerned about public image and the Gabrielle who wants to let it all out?
Gabrielle Union: That's a long, long, long road. Each step of the way is littered with therapists. Luckily, I've had the same supportive group of friends since my mid-20s, into my mid-40s. I've always sort of been encouraged on the "Fuck it" of it all. "Fuck it" — that's what I have to tell myself. You could literally save mankind, and people would be like, "Is that what you wore to save mankind? Gosh, it would be so much better if your thigh gap was bigger when you saved mankind," or, "Oh, that's a really plunging neckline when you saved mankind," or, "I wish you had worn your hair natural when you saved mankind." There's going to be a peanut gallery of naysayers, no matter what you do.
LD: You can't stand there trying to please and un-please a whole group of people.
GU: I'm not one of those people that needs to touch the stove to be like, "Oh, it's hot." I can watch everybody else get burned, and be like, "You know what? I'm not going to touch the stove." You realize that people that you know, you know where their intentions are, you know where their hearts are, you know what they've actually accomplished, and you still see people tearing them down for shit that has nothing to do with the actual work that they're doing.